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A Trip to the ARA Show

This past February, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the American Rental Association's yearly event, where business owners and employees alike in the rental world get the chance to participate in educational sessions, group activities, and exciting events. This year, the event took place in Orlando, the home of places like Disney World and Universal Studios. The five day conference included “Events and Tents”, a one day seminar that was geared more towards the party rental side of business, with the remaining days focusing on overall rentals and the show floor, where more than 700 vendors gather to exhibit the trending items of the year. The days I spent at the show were very educational and filled with fun activities, I would recommend anyone in the business go at least once!

Day 1:

The first day we were there was more of an introductory day, a day to get excited about what was going to be happening over the course of the show. The conference started out with a bang, having “The Wedding Guys” as our teachers for the current trends in weddings. They were able to show examples of what they had used with different weddings, and what you could do instead with a smaller budget. They also emphasized the importance of making your showroom “retail ready.”

We were also able to see the Inspiration Gallery selections, where businesses around the country enter photos of their best events of the year. We submitted photos from my wedding, and they were selected! It was an honor to see my wedding on display with so many amazing events.

A session that was my favorite was “Eyeing the Future of Linens”, a talk where owners of two different linen companies united to teach us what they saw growing for 2017. Print fabrics was one that was surprising, but made sense with the demand of particular colors.

We ended the sessions that day with the “Virtual Tours” which American Party Place was picked to give one this year! This tour is for other businesses to see how a company does their day to day activities, and get inspiration from the behind the scenes activity. After the tour, everyone had a chance to ask Loree questions about what they had seen.

Later that evening, we had our Events and Tents Reception at “Mango’s Tropical Cafe”, a restaurant/club where you are transported to a Vegas style show, complete with Michael Jackson Impersonators and flamenco dancers!

Day 2:

Day two started with a “Rental Town Hall” where business leaders had a chance to ask owners and managers of large event rental stores any questions they might have about running a successful rental company. Classes that day included “Unlocking your Selling Ability” and “Building People: A Breakthrough for all Team Members.” These classes were taught by people in the business and out of the industry, including one class being taught by a hypnotist!

After our classes, I was able to go up on stage and be recognized for completing my Certified Event Rental Professional course! After reading three books, taking three exams, writing an essay, and completing enough industry credits, I was able to get my certificate!

After all our classes were done, we had some free time to hang around Disney Springs, an area outside of Disney World, full of different shops and restaurants.

Day 3:

The third day started with a talk from Jay Leno, a very entertaining speaker! He gave us a break from industry talk with jokes and stories alike. After his talk was over, he answered some questions and then the show floor was opened! We were able to walk through all the booths with our buy list and see who had the best deals and what items we hadn’t thought of we might need. We also got to practice our negotiating skills and see what great deals we could get!

The day ended with another trip to Disney Springs, as Loree and I are big Disney fans! We were able to meet up with a friend from Washington and have a lovely evening!

Day 4:

Day four was a relaxed and fun day! We spent the morning on the show floor, bargaining and researching for the purchases we were going to make. After much thought and deliberation, we had most of our selections made and wrapped up the day at the convention center.

The big treat for the whole conference was a night at Universal Studios - without anyone else being there! Harry Potter World and Islands of Adventure was reserved for us to explore and have fun! Loree and I partnered up to tackle the park, not knowing what was in store. We had a nice ride on the Hogwarts Express, with a lovely meal at the Three Broomsticks.

We then headed off to the Jurassic Park area of the park. Loree and I thought we were getting a picture with an animatronic dinosaur, but in reality, it was someone dressed up in a very lifelike costume! Of course, the person saw the fear in our eyes and decided to make the most out of scaring us to death! We finally got a picture, about 15 feet away from the Velociraptor.

After almost peeing our pants, we decided we would try the King Kong ride. LIttle did we know that there are people that jump out at you dressed all in black while you are standing in line! Already at our wits end, we ran all the way to the ride and were escorted to the “family room”, an area for people who are traumatized, usually after the ride is over. Not in our case :)

Day 5:

The last day we were there, everything was wrapping up! Most people had already gone home, but we decided to browse the show floor one last time to see if we missed anything. After we finished, we packed everything up and left!

Looking back on these days, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to visit the show and learn more about the industry! I was able to take many concepts back with me that I had never thought of before and implement them in our showroom and daily activities. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to go experience it all again!

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